THE 2019 sporting calendar is set to get under way with a full programme of football and rugby fixtures this weekend.

The participants, along with those involved with other sports across the district, will be looking to get the New Year off to a good start.

And if it proves to be anywhere near as exhilarating and compulsive as the one which has just finished, it will be an excellent year indeed.

There is no question that 2018 will live in the memory as an outstanding year for sport in the district.

Stocksfield golfer Chris Paisley set the ball rolling in January when he won his first professional event on the European Tour.

The 32-year-old carded a four-round total of 21 under par, to defeat home favourite Branden Grace by three shots. A global TV audience watched on as the affable Paisley stormed to victory, with his wife Keri deputising as his caddy for the tournament, in Johannesburg.

In April, Hexham swimmer David Cumberlidge flew the flag for the district at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and the 21-year-old brought home a medal. He was a key member of the England men’s 4x100m freestyle quartet, which won silver in Australia, alongside Ben Proud, Jarvis Parkinson and James Guy.

Ponteland swimmer Emily Large qualified for the 200m butterfly final at the Commonwealth Games, while Chris Bunten, of Hexham, was assistant coach of England’s basketball team which finished runners-up to overwhelming favourites Australia.

The local rowing scene also enjoyed a fruitful summer, from the thousands of people who descended on Tyne Green in June for the Hexham Regatta, to success for rowers up and down the country.

In June, Amy Bowman from Gunnerton, and Wall’s Nicole Lamb, won gold while representing Newcastle University at the Henley Women’s Regatta in London. They were part of the university’s crew which won the championship coxless quadruple sculls, alongside Frances Russell and Lola Anderson.

The following month, Hexham’s Nick Ryan won gold at the National Championships in Nottingham. A member of Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School Rowing Club, he was victorious in the prestigious event’s J18 1x category. A four-man crew from Hexham Rowing Club also struck gold in Nottingham, at the British Masters Rowing Championships.

Ben Haywood Smith, Simon Aitkenhead, Andrew Corder and Neil Watson, held off a challenge from the Star Rowing Club from Bedford to win by a clear margin.

Last summer was a prolific one for athletics, with Ponteland teenager Joseph Anderson representing Team GB in both Germany and Madeira in the biathle event, which challenged competitors to a 800m run, 100m swim, and another 800m run.

Team GB recognition was also gained by Ian Walton, the fitness manager at Matfen Hall’s Aqua Vitae centre, who finished 23rd out of 48 of Europe’s best competitors in the 50-55 age category, at August’s European Championships in Glasgow.

At the end of August, young running sensation Daniel Joyce lined-up alongside world record holder Max Burgin in the 800m at U17 level in Bedfordshire, and finished a very credible second with a time of 1m 52.74s.

The performance capped a remarkable year for the 15-year-old, who in July won gold while representing his country in the Schools International Athletic Board (SAIB) Championships, in Scotland. Daniel also lifted the English Schools National Championships in Birmingham during the same month, before taking on the senior men at Gateshead International Stadium, and winning the 400m.

Also in August, Tynedale Harrier gold medal at the British Masters Championships in Birmingham.

The summer also saw success for the district’s kickboxers. Owen Richardson, of Prudhoe, won gold while representing England, while Joe Welch, of Haydon Bridge, lifted a northern middleweight championship.

The year also included major cycling events in the district. Welshman Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France just weeks after competing locally, when the national time trial and road race championships took place around Stamfordham, Matfen, Kirkley Hall and Belsay.